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Turn It Up

movie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: Turn It Up

Starring: Prakazrel Michel, Vondie Curtis-Hall
Director: Robert Adetyui
Rated: R
RunTime: 88 Minutes
Release Date: September 2000
Genres: Drama, Music

*Also starring: Ja Rule, Patricia Velasquez, John Ralston, Tamala Jones

Reviewer Roundup
1.  Steve Rhodes review follows movie reviewvideo review
2.  Harvey Karten read the review ---

Review by Steve Rhodes
1½ stars out of 4

Small-time drug dealer Diamond (Pras from the rap group The Fugees) has aspirations. He wants to trade in his life of guns and drugs for a music contract. "I want to be legitimate," he says earnestly to his music manager and fellow coke-dealer, Gage, played by real-life hip-hopper Ja Rule. "I want to earn some respect."

An admitted perfectionist when it comes to creating his sound, Diamond has a much more flexible attitude when it comes to ethics. Using his shiny guns, he is happy to waste anyone gets in his way. But even he has limits. The morality test that separates the men from the boys or, in case of TURN IT UP, the vicious killers from the really vicious killers, involves an innocent, Spanish-speaking, pregnant woman who witnesses Diamond and Gage murdering a bunch of other dealers. In a minor moral moment, Diamond insists that Gage let her go. One wonders what was it that tipped the scales in her favor. Would the pregnancy alone have been enough? Probably not, since Diamond argues with Gage that not only is she pregnant but, since she doesn't speak English, she couldn't turn them in.

Even if the script by the director, Robert Adetuyi doesn't work as a morality tale, it does form the basis for some interesting set pieces to demonstrate Adetuyi's skills in staging scenes. Handsomely lit and shot by cinematographer Hubert Taczanowski, the movie is a real treat for the eyes. Your ears, however, may complain that there's little for them. When the actors aren't speaking, they strut upon the stage with impressive verve. But when they start reading their lines, you realize how vacuous the script is. Even ignoring its propensity for non-stop profanity, there is little to admire about it. With miniscule plot and character development, the script leaves the visuals to carry the movie. And that's asking for some pretty heavy lifting.

What do we learn of the characters?

Well, Diamond is a freedom-loving man who refuses even to give his girlfriend his cell phone number, equating that to the umbilical cord that once bound men to their mothers. Gage has a succinct statement of human desires. He says that all we want is "money, drugs and hos." Gage is aghast when a big record producer named Mr. White -- yes, he is -- wants to hear a demo tape before hiring Diamond. The audacity!

This much can be said. After enduring many ugly bad movies, I, for one, appreciate having a bad movie that it is at least handsomely filmed and competently directed.

TURN IT UP runs 1:23. It is rated R for strong violence, language and some drug content and would be acceptable for high school seniors and older.

Copyright 2000 Steve Rhodes

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